First chapel visited by Saint Mother Theodore Guerin on her arrival at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to be re-created
A log cabin once stood with its sibling inside a Southern Indiana barn that was rotting away and was destined for bulldozing.
Owensville, Ind., resident Faye Masterson, who loves to take pictures of old barns, learned about it and shared her information with her husband, David, because she knew he would be interested. They thought they were going to see a log barn. When they arrived several years ago, they found a barn had been built around two log cabins that had survived from the middle 1800s.
David purchased the cabins, dismantled them and moved them to the Mastersons’ property.
One cabin was rebuilt and is still standing. The other remained dismantled, but now it rests in Vigo County where it will be repaired and reassembled as a replica of the first chapel at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, which was visited by Saint Mother Theodore Guerin when she and her five companions arrived here in 1840. The Mastersons donated the logs for the cabin to the Sisters of Providence.
The reconstruction project has been in discussion and planning since shortly after Saint Mother Theodore was canonized nearly five years ago in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI.
“We are so very delighted that this project will become reality. Several people have been involved in moving this project forward and the recent donation from David and Faye Masterson helped us bring it all together,” said Sister Denise Wilkinson, general superior of the Sisters of Providence.
“The re-creation of this log chapel will give our friends, companions and all of our visitors an opportunity to learn what life might have been like in 1840, and offer a unique way to reflect, pray or simply enjoy our beautiful grounds,” she added.
“We also could not have done this without the guidance and support of our great friends at the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau. They have been so wonderful in helping us develop this project. We have had visitors from all 50 states and from dozens of foreign nations. This cabin will be of historical benefit to all of Vigo County. It also is an example of recycling at its best,” Sister Denise also said.
“The Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau is proud of all of our community partners and we are particularly proud to provide financial assistance for this historical re-creation,” said David Patterson, executive director. “What the Sisters of Providence stand for in their mission reflects well in our community and this is part of our ongoing relationship that, hopefully, will extend well into the future. We have partnered on other things through the years, and Saint Mother Theodore and the sisters have their own mission, but this project has great historical value for our community.”
The Mastersons first offered the cabin to Keith Ruble, superintendent of the Vigo County Park and Recreation Department. Ruble has been involved with the project from soon after its beginning. Ruble met David Masterson at the Rendezvous Festival in Vincennes on Memorial Day weekend this year and said he thought the Sisters of Providence might be interested.
Ruble will donate his private time to rebuild the cabin and replace some of the logs that have decayed, along with members of the Sisters of Providence Facilities Management staff. Work already is under way on the foundation and construction should be completed before winter. It will be located in the central part of the grounds just north of Grotto Lane where a large stone now marks the site.
“I look forward to helping re-create the replica of the cabin which served as a chapel. I believe it will provide people with an example of the hardship that Saint Mother Theodore and the other nuns went through to establish Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Through prayer, it will be a place of peace and comfort for all who visit it when it is completed,” Ruble said.
“The best information I have is that the cabins were built by George Lowe of Cynthiana in the early to mid-1800s. The cabins were most likely used as homesteads first, then moved together to make a barn. Faye and I are so pleased to find a home for the cabin at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. It has been dismantled for 10 years just waiting for the right place to set it back up. We can’t wait to see the cabin after it is finished,” David Masterson said.
The cabin will be furnished with a cot-like bed on which the priest at the time would have slept. Using Saint Mother Theodore’s descriptions and records in the Sisters of Providence Archives for guidance, the cabin will feature a fireplace and primitive altar made of wooden planks.
Former Vigo County Extension Agent Max Miller and West Terre Haute contractor Earl Rodgers also have been involved with planning for the project.
“We are grateful to all of our partners and our own staff members who have worked diligently for a long time to make this happen,” Sister Denise said.
About the Sisters of Providence
The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.